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Monday, March 26, 2012

You Are Perfect- Yes You!


Are you perfect?  Most of us would answer "No" to this question, being all too aware of our personal faults.  Yet, this type of self judgement, of not quite being good enough can lead to low self esteem.  When we think of an idealized self, we might imagine being someone with immense wisdom, compassion, and inner peace.  Of course most of us would fall short of this type of comparison.  But it isn't quite fair to ourselves to make this type of comparison in the first place.  Look at a baby.  They are perfect, even though they lack knowledge and understanding.  They are perfect even though they have so much more to learn.  They are perfect in the stage of growth they are in at the time.  As adults, we sometimes lose track of this inner perfection of being human.  We all have room to grow.  We all still make mistakes, fall down sometimes, and sometimes don't even understand why.  Today, believe that you are perfect just as you are, while knowing that you have the ability to grow into a new definition of perfection tomorrow.  Stop comparing yourself to others, or to your idealized self, and embrace your innate human perfection.

Accepting and loving yourself is an important part of being happy.  Ponder these thoughts the next time you are feeling down on yourself.  

Namaste-

Laura Barrette Shannon

Friday, March 23, 2012

When Your Cup Is Full~ Stop Pouring!


Do you try to do more than you can handle?
Time is a strange concept. It seems that most people live according to some sort of time schedule, usually attempting to squeeze in more time than there is. They say things like, “I don’t have time” or “I wish there was more time.”The problem isn’t the amount of time in a day. Everyone has the same amount of time. The problem arises when people either agree to do too much because they have taken on more than they can handle or they don’t schedule enough, not making the time for what is important to them.

Do you take on more than you can handle and then feel stressed? Do you have a problem saying “No” or try to please everyone all the time? Trying to do more than you can handle is like pouring hot coffee into a cup that is already full. If you keep pouring, it will burn you. It’s all right to pace yourself, choosing to do what is important to you and not committing to everyone and everything that vies for your attention. Remember that if you are overworked and overstressed, then you won’t be much good to anyone. Practice setting boundaries and limits on how many things you schedule, and then you will have time to drink that cup of coffee!

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
~ Stephen Covey


Take a look at your life. Is it over scheduled with activities to the point where you feel that you don’t have time for self-improvement, creative endeavors, or quality time with loved ones? If you make a list of the top five priorities in your life, do you make time to attend to them? Decide what is important, schedule it, and then schedule the rest. You will be surprised at how much your life will be enhanced when you focus on what is truly important to you.

I periodically reevaluate my life and make a list of the five most important things to me. Right now, it’s peace of mind, relationships, my dogs, writing, and spirituality. Because these things are a priority to me, I make time for them first. Then I schedule everything else. As time goes on, the priorities will change and so will my schedule of activities. It is impossible to do everything and be there for everyone all the time. You must become aware of your limitations, scheduling no more than you can comfortably handle. If you over-schedule, you will become tired and stressed, which makes everything in life less enjoyable. When you get so caught up in the multitude of activities that you have committed to, you may end up neglecting what is most important to you.

Lesson:

When your cup is full, stop pouring!

Exercise:
Evaluate your schedule, and ask yourself, “What is important to me?” Make time for what matters most to you, and then schedule the rest. If a relationship is important, then schedule quality time together. If it’s your health, then schedule regular exercise routines and plan a healthy meal schedule. When you focus on what is important to you, you will feel at peace with your life and how you spend your time.

Do not take on more than you can handle in a balanced way. Taking on too much creates stress and imbalance in the rest of your life. Practice saying “No” when necessary.

Become aware of what is important to you, then make time for your priorities. Let the rest of your life be balanced with other activities that you have agreed to, but never more than you can comfortably handle.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Exercise Helps Elevate Moods


Walking daily will help depression.

Our physical bodies have an effect on our emotional bodies. If we
are physically out of shape, it can have an enormous effect on
how we feel emotionally. When we take steps to stay physically healthy
and fit, we are increasing our emotional health as well.
Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult or vigorous to affect your
emotional body. Exercising, even with just a short walk, will increase
your oxygen intake, relieve stress, and elevate your mood. Walking is
one of the best and easiest activities to relieve stress.
Make walking a daily habit. Even if you only walk for fifteen
minutes, it will make a difference in the way you feel both physically
and emotionally. Walk outside when possible and gain the added benefits
of fresh air and sunshine. Take a friend or family member for a walk
and you’ll have quality bonding time.
As you walk, pay attention to all the sights, sounds, and smells.
This brings your awareness to the present, which makes it a walking
meditation. Make walking a daily habit and you will be exercising your
body and easing your mind at the same time. Walk more and enjoy life
more.
I cannot over emphasize the importance of exercise for those of
you who are prone to depression or are bi-polar. Whenever I feel the
downward pull of my cycle towards depression, if I force myself to keep
walking daily, it really helps to keep me from spiraling further into
depression. Walking is one of my most important tools for maintaining
stability and balance during emotional swings.

Lesson:
Exercise helps elevate moods.

Exercise:
Incorporate some form of exercise into your life. At the very least,
make walking a daily habit. If you start exercising every day, you will
reap the benefits both physically and mentally.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Grass Really Isn't Greener...



A married woman tending her garden sees a plane go by and dreams of travel. The traveling salesman on the plane sits next to an old man, which starts him dreaming of retirement. The retired old man sitting across from a young family yearns to be young again. The young mother is looking at the teenager sitting in front of her and can’t wait for her toddler to be self-sufficient. The teen is looking out the window at the woman in her garden and wishes she was older so she could get married and have her own garden.

We often look away from where we are to the past, the future, or to what someone else has that we think we might enjoy, instead of being where we are in life. The grass isn’t any greener anywhere else. Life is what you experience. Enjoy your own life instead of wishing you were someone else or in a different time in your life. Each part of your life will be different from the others, but each is worth experiencing while it is here. Whether you are young, old, single, married, traveling, or being a homebody, appreciate it.

Lesson:

You can’t enjoy life if you are wishing you were someone else
 or focusing on a different time in your life.

Exercise:
Become aware when you are wishing you were in a different phase of your life. This train of thought devalues where you are right now in life. If you find yourself caught up in time travel thinking, bring your awareness back to the present. Begin to focus on gratitude and appreciation for where you are right now in life. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stop Waiting!


The essence of life is not in
the great victories and grand failures,
but in the simple joys.”
~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Patience is allowing life to unfold in its own time. If you feel the unease of impatience, bring your attention back to the present and remind yourself that there are no ordinary moments. Every minute of every day is just as fleeting and sacred as any other. Impatience devalues the present moment, as if it’s not good enough. Become aware of this and start valuing all of your time.

Many of us have become so busy that we feel rushed and stressed throughout the day. Some of these feelings arise from the annoyance we cause ourselves by always waiting for the next activity. When you are in a mind-set of waiting, you are not present. If you are at a stop light, in a checkout line, or a doctor’s office, you are in a traditional waiting situation. By switching your state of mind to being present, you can relax and enjoy these few minutes of inactivity. In a busy day, these moments give us a much needed opportunity to take a break.

Many people have experienced the agitation of waiting while stopped at a red light. For some reason, there seems to be a lack of acceptance when it comes to traffic. Logically, we know that red lights, detours, and accidents are a normal part of traffic. Yet when faced with a couple of minutes at a red light, some people feel irritated. They spend these couple of minutes dwelling on how long the lights are, how many lights are on their route, and how the car in front of them should have gone through the yellow light so that they could have sped through the light before it changed red. Sometimes they even start to verbalize derogatory names about other drivers. In these few minutes, instead of peace and relaxation, these drivers have worked themselves up into a fit of anger.

It’s time to stop waiting and start relaxing. Use this time to take a few deep breaths, feel your body, hear the music of life, and be aware of the details around you. When you bring your attention to your physical body and the surrounding environment, you are forcing your awareness outside your head. This is an automatic tension reliever. Nothing can bother you when you are present in the moment.

Lesson:

Stop waiting and enjoy life as it is happening. Be where you are.

Exercise:
When you are in a waiting situation, give yourself a break!

Take a few deep breaths. Slowly inhale, feeling the air expand your lungs. Then feel the tension leave your body with each exhale.

Think an affirmation of gratitude for these few moments of tranquility that you are about to experience. 

This is wonderful! I am so grateful for these few minutes of peace.

Bring your attention to your surroundings. Engage your senses and be aware of sights, sounds, and smells. Get out of your head and reconnect with the world.

Start actively relaxing in situations where you would normally find yourself waiting. It’s time to reclaim these precious minutes of your day! Begin to experience the peace and serenity that you can enjoy in these same few minutes. Cultivating patience is one simple step to enjoying life.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What Trains Are You Riding?


The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Thoughts are like trains passing through your mind. You can either let the train go by, silently watching it flow through, or you can jump on the train of thought, allowing it to bring you to a destination. Some trains go to happy places: warm memories, future dreams, gratitude, present surroundings. Others go to places of misery: regret, worry, resentment, complaints. Be aware of what train you jump on. When you pay attention to trains of thought, they grow stronger and come more often. Begin to be aware of how your thoughts affect your moods. Ask yourself, “Where is this train going?” Then you can either stay on it or jump off! 

The optimal goal is not to allow ourselves to indulge in trains of thought that lead to misery and suffering. But since this takes time to master, most of us will occasionally find ourselves on a self-destructing train of thought. To maintain peace of mind, we must learn how to jump from negative trains to happy trains.

There are many ways to change your train of thought. One of the easiest is to bring your awareness back to the present moment. Use the ABCs of redirecting attention. A- Awareness B- Breathe C- Choose.  Take one or two slow, deep breaths. Pay attention to your surroundings; concentrate on feeling your body sensations, sights, sounds, and smells. When you are fully present, your mind will not be thinking about past trauma, today’s complaints, or tomorrow’s worries. You will be in the now, fully aware and free to experience life outside your head until you choose to jump onto a more pleasant train of thought. Practice being aware of what train you are riding, and jump trains as necessary. The more you practice, the easier it will be, until one day it will be second nature. The less attention you pay to the negative trains of thought, the less often they will come to mind and the quicker they will pass through, eventually not coming much at all.

Lesson:

By redirecting your attention, you have the ability to jump off negative trains of thought.

Exercise:
Practice jumping trains of thought.

When you become aware that you are riding on a negative train of thought, jump off. Practice bringing your awareness back to the present moment. Take a slow, deep breath. Engage in the sensory input around you. Stay present as long as possible. Engage in your life as it is unfolding before you. Become an active participant in your surroundings. Eventually, pick a happier train of thought to ride. Choose trains like gratitude, future dreams, or compassion.

Be patient with yourself during this training phase. It’s been a lifetime riding on the same unhappy trains over and over. It will take some time to lay new train tracks. Any amount of effort you give this exercise will pay off as it will raise your awareness and hone your ability to focus your attention at will.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Self Awareness


What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Know thyself.” ~ Socrates

Self-awareness is the cornerstone to transformation. If you do not understand yourself, how can you change?

One easy way to increase your self-awareness is to put yourself into an observational mode by watching how you usually react to people and situations. Bring your awareness into an observational mode by paying attention to your patterns of being and questioning your thoughts and behavior. You can then assess your behavior. Distinguish if the way you are acting is in alignment with who you desire to be. Do certain people seem to upset you or cause you to feel stressed? Discover what it is that you are thinking around them. Watch yourself and you will find out what situations push you into automatic reactions. Once you can recognize these situations, the mere fact of recognizing them brings a state of higher awareness. Then you will have the power to be however you choose to be instead of driving on impulse.

You may be surprised to find that when you come from a place of reaction, you are not in alignment with how you would choose to respond if you had given the situation a moment of thought. Once you have attained this watcher awareness, you will have the power to respond to life instead of operating with your automatic default reactions. Remember your ABCs of responding to life: Awareness, Breathe, Choose. Then you can choose love over fear, peace over conflict, and happiness over despair.

Lesson:

Watching how you interact in the world raises your self-awareness.

Exercise:
Practice observing yourself. Learn to shift your awareness as necessary. When you are watching yourself, you are in a state of higher awareness. In this mode of consciousness, you will be open to new types of behavior as well as increasing self-awareness.

Don’t judge your efforts. Any amount of attention you give to this practice will enhance your ability to move into higher awareness at will. Have fun with this exercise. You will learn things you never knew about yourself. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Embrace Your Real Beauty


“A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind ofbeauty no matter what she wears.” ~Anne Roiphe

“In so much as love grows in you,so in you beauty grows.”
~St. Augustine


Beauty is a cultural agreement of what physical traits are most desirable. To evaluate yourself on external criteria that are beyond your control is to sentence yourself to a life of trying to mold yourself into an ideal of what is currently considered beautiful. This type of behavior reinforces low self-worth by repeating thoughts that you are not good enough the way you are. It drives people to have unnecessary cosmetic surgery and to develop hate for their own natural physical characteristics.

Real beauty comes in all shapes, ages, colors, cultures, and every other variety imaginable. There is nothing more attractive than self-confidence mixed with compassion, or a warm, authentic smile. Realize that beautiful isn’t an adjective but an action verb. It is an expression of being. Act beautiful by being loving and compassionate. Act beautiful by being an expression of joy to those around you. Be an example to others. Stop trying to mold yourself into the media’s idea of beauty and embrace your own beautiful traits as the uniqueness that is part of what makes you you. Real beauty comes from within.

Even those of us who have fended off the peer pressure of culturally conforming to current beauty standards can be surprisingly affected by loss of youth. You may feel less than you used to be because the years have etched a few lines on your face or you no longer have the body of a twenty-year-old. Real beauty comes from the charisma and radiance of self-confidence and inner joy. It never matters how old you are. Age is a number. The higher the number, the more you have experienced and the wiser you become. Don’t let growing older be a cause of distress. Let each year be a badge of honor you display gracefully. (And remember to stretch!)

Fluffy or thin, old or young, wrinkle free or etched to perfection, love yourself. You are perfectly beautiful just the way you are!

Lesson:

Realize that beautiful isn’t an adjective but an action verb. It is an expression of being.

Exercise:
Make a list of what makes you beautiful as a person. Start each sentence with “I am beautiful …”

Examples:
I am beautiful when I help others.
I am beautiful when I smile.
I am beautiful when I play with my dog.
I am beautiful when I embrace who I am with love.

Realize that beautiful isn’t an adjective but an action verb. It is an expression of being. Be real. Be beautiful.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Seeds of Discontent


When we cultivate acceptance, it will begin to strangle the weeds of discontent. When we can begin to accept that certain things in life are beyond our control, then we can understand the uselessness of complaining about them. When we complain, we are planting seeds of misery in our minds and spreading those seeds to other people.

Complaining will amplify your fixation on negative circumstances. If you can change what you are wishing to change, then have the courage to do it. If you choose not to, then stop complaining. If it is something beyond your control, then the complaining serves only one purpose: to aggravate yourself and others around you.

Not only is complaining a waste of time and energy, but it is detrimental to peace of mind. Whenever you complain, you are planting weeds of misery instead of seeds of happiness. You are reinforcing negative thinking with every complaint you utter. Begin to notice how you feel irritated when you complain about things. This irritation is one of the root causes of stress in your life. Stress is caused when the mind refuses to accept what is. When we are constantly dwelling on things that are out of our control, we plant seeds of discontent and anger. The events in our life do not create stress; our thoughts about these events are the seeds of discontent.

Mom was right: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Become aware of how your words affect your emotions and those who hear them. It’s not just gossip that hurts; it is any complaint or negative comments about life in general. Become aware of the power of your words. Words are powerful. They can bring people together or drive them apart. Watch your words and those around you. Begin to see the power behind them. Practice being positive and you will not only feel better yourself, you will be a light to those around you.

Lesson:

Become aware that complaining is
 a seed of discontent and unhappiness.

Exercise:
Begin to be aware of what you say. Your words are a mirror of your mind. See if you can notice how much you complain and how others will complain about the littlest things. Become aware of what type of conversations you have with people. Are most of your conversations positive and uplifting, or are they mostly complaining about people or life in general? Begin to notice how you feel when you complain about things. How do you feel when others are complaining? All that is required is for you to become aware of how complaining is contributing to your level of stress.

This is an awareness exercise. Raising your awareness is the first step to complaining less. Awareness is the key to getting your emotions under control. Don’t judge yourself. Be grateful that you are becoming aware of how stress originates and that you have the power to begin living peacefully.